Firefighters Union Prevails in Arbitration, City Disagrees Still

October 21, 2017
By

By Seth Daniel

The City has been ordered by an arbiter to pay overtime that was in dispute from not backfilling a position last year with overtime pay.

The arbiter ruled on Oct. 9 that Chelsea had violated the collective bargaining agreement by not backfilling the position – mostly in 2016 – to avoid having to pay overtime. The open position was created when the City, by contract, created a new deputy chief position, leaving the Safety and Training Deputy Chief position open.

The dispute was whether or not that position had to be filled with overtime when appropriate. The City said it didn’t, and the union believed it did.

“It is undisputed that Chief Albanese was faced with an unexpectedly large overtime bill for the first quarter of his first fiscal year as Chief,” read the decision. “Contractual considerations, however, constrained his response.  I am not persuaded that the unilateral rescission of (regulations) was an appropriate exercise of management rights, pursuant to the parties’ collective bargaining agreement.  Instead, I determine that the parties’ present practice was consistent with a specific agreement the Union reached with respect to command staff changes; namely, that a new Deputy Chief position would be created, and that the Safety and Training Deputy Chief position would be backfilled, on a day to day basis, for certain absences.”

The arbiter ordered that the City repay the overtime to those that were affected.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the award would amount to about $30,000.

“I am further persuaded that, by operation of (the law), the Chief was obligated to meet and discuss overtime overrun concerns with the Union,” it read. “As a result, I conclude that by unilaterally rescinding (the regulation), the City violated the collective bargaining agreement. As remedy, I determine that the effected Deputy Chiefs should be made whole for their loss of overtime opportunities.”

Ambrosino said he is considering filing an appeal, but the ability to overturn an arbiter is not likely.

“We think the arbiter completely missed  the boat and didn’t interpret the contract correctly,” he said. “However, it’s hard to overturn an arbiter’s ruling.”

The Chelsea Fire Union was not able to comment as its president, Anthony Salvucci, has stepped down from his position – according to other members.

Former President Brian Capistran said he is a candidate for president of the union, and that an election was to be held this week.


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